British Columbia announced its four-step reopening plan on Tuesday, with the first step starting today with the easing of restrictions that affected gatherings, sports events and both indoor and outdoor dining.
Premier John Horgan said B.C.’s strong immunization rate allows the province to slowly bring people back together, with Sept. 7 a target date for the final phase of the plan to be implemented. That means the earliest the public health emergency and provincial state of emergency could be lifted would be July 1.
The restart plan is contingent on case counts dropping, hospitalizations declining and 70 per cent of the population getting vaccinated. B.C. on Tuesday reported 289 new COVID-19 cases and one related death.
B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said restrictions being lifted Tuesday include allowing indoor and outdoor dining for up to six people, indoor gatherings with five personal visitors and in-person faith-based gatherings, at reduced capacity. The province said the earliest that travel restrictions could be lifted is June 15, with recreational travel permitted only within residents’ regions.
The federal government, meanwhile, is deploying health workers, medical equipment and the military to Manitoba as COVID-19 puts increased strain on the province’s hospitals. Manitoba currently has the highest new COVID-19 infection rate in North America, with more than 1,200 new cases confirmed over the recent long weekend.
WATCH | Manitoba officials say their restrictions are enough to curb COVID-19:
More than a dozen critical patients have already been flown to Ontario for intensive care, some as far away as Ottawa, London and Windsor. Manitoba reported 259 new cases on Tuesday and two related deaths, and announced that it is extending public health orders to Saturday at 12:01 a.m. CT.
That includes no gatherings, indoors or out, except among members of the same household, although there is a small exemption for people who live alone.
Some doctors in the province are calling for tighter restrictions, including a stay-at-home order to prevent intensive care units from being overwhelmed.
Jim Carr, MP for Winnipeg South Centre and cabinet’s special representative to the Prairies, says Ottawa is responding to requests for assistance from Manitoba.
WATCH | Non-COVID-19 patients dying due to lack of care, Manitoba doctor says:
Carr says the military is deploying to 23 First Nations to aid in vaccinations, while epidemiologists and interviewers will help with contact tracing, and Ottawa is also preparing to send federal health-care workers and potentially some from the Canadian Red Cross.
Carr says Manitoba has also asked for more personal protective gear as the province’s health-care system “is reaching its limit.”
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 4:20 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 1,365,516 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 48,043 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 25,324. More than 21.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered so far across the country, according to CBC’s vaccine tracker.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Moderna has assured her it will deliver millions of doses of its COVID-19 vaccine next month but still hasn’t confirmed the exact amount or timing of deliveries. Anand said she has been on the phone to Moderna repeatedly, including Tuesday morning, to push for an actual delivery schedule for June and July.
Quebec Premier François Legault said the COVID-19-related curfew will lift across the province on Friday as part of its gradual reopening plan. Outdoor dining at restaurants will be allowed across the province and outdoor gatherings of up to eight people can also take place beginning Friday, the premier announced at a news conference.
Legault said he expects all of Quebec to be out of the province’s highest pandemic-alert level by June 7. He said five of the 10 regions at the red level will move to the orange alert level on May 31.
Red-level restrictions will continue in Montreal and Laval until June 7.
Earlier health officials in the province reported 346 new cases of COVID-19 and six related deaths.
Ontario reported figures for two days, saying there were 1,039 cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday and 33 deaths. For Monday, officials said, there were 1,446 cases reported and eight additional deaths.
The province later announced its first death associated with a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, said the man in his 40s received a first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at the end of April. She said he died a few weeks later.
WATCH | Quebec to start gradual reopening on Friday:
Yaffe said it’s been confirmed the man had vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, also known as VITT. Nearly one million people in Ontario aged 40 and older have received the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday reported 11 new COVID-19 cases, each connected to a growing cluster in central Newfoundland.
Nova Scotia reported 54 new cases on Tuesday, while New Brunswick announced nine new cases.
Saskatchewan reported 111 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, while Premier Scott Moe strongly urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We’re not asking you to storm the beaches of Normandy,” he said at an afternoon news conference. “All we’re asking you to do is go in and get a tiny needle in your arm.”
Earlier, the province said it will be relaxing restrictions on outdoor sports as part of the first step in its reopening plan, which is to begin Sunday. Athletes will be able to attend practices and participate in league play, but tournaments and out-of-province travel will not be allowed.
Alberta, meanwhile, reported 387 new COVID-19 cases and nine related deaths on Tuesday. The provincial government also plans to unveil its strategy for easing public health restrictions at a news conference on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. MT.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, alluded to the impending announcement during Tuesday’s pandemic update.
“They say that the last few miles in a race are the hardest, and that is what we are facing right now,” Hinshaw said. “With cases declining and more vaccines being administered every day, we are rapidly approaching a point when we can safely begin to ease measures. It’s close and getting closer every day.”
Across the North, Nunavut on Tuesday reported one new case of COVID-19 and five additional recoveries, bringing the number of active cases in the territory to 13. Health officials in Yukon and the Northwest Territories had not yet provided an update for the day.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 6 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 167.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tool to track cases maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.4 million.
The Japanese government Tuesday was quick to deny that a U.S. warning for Americans to avoid travelling to Japan would have an impact on Olympians wanting to compete in the postponed Tokyo Games.
U.S. officials cited a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan caused by virus variants that may even be risks to vaccinated people. They didn’t ban Americans from visiting Japan, but the warnings could affect insurance rates and whether Olympic athletes and other participants decide to join the Games that are set to begin on July 23.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is currently advising against all non-essential travel outside the country.
Most metro areas in Japan are under a state of emergency and expected to remain so through mid-June because of rising serious COVID-19 cases that are putting pressure on the country’s medical-care systems. That raises concern about how the country could cope with the arrival of tens of thousands of Olympic participants if its hospitals remain stressed and little of its population is vaccinated.
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it still anticipates American athletes will be able to safely compete at the Tokyo Games. The Japanese public in opinion surveys have expressed opposition to holding the Games out of safety concerns while most people will not be vaccinated.
WATCH | Infectious diseases specialist on whether Olympics should happen:
In the Middle East, Bahrain’s health ministry on Monday reported 28 deaths, the highest daily toll in the small island nation, which has seen a surge in coronavirus cases to record levels.
In the Asia-Pacific region, India’s official tally of daily infections of the novel coronavirus fell to the lowest in nearly six weeks in the last 24 hours, offering hope a devastating second wave is ebbing, but government leaders said shortages of vaccines were a concern.
Australia’s second-largest city Melbourne reinstated COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday as authorities scrambled to find the missing link in a fresh outbreak, prompting New Zealand to pause a “travel bubble” with the state of Victoria.
In the Americas, Haiti’s government has imposed a nightly curfew and other restrictions under an eight-day “health emergency” meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All outdoor activity will be banned from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. under the decree issued Monday by President Jovenel Moise.
The decree also makes the use of face masks mandatory for anyone out in public, while temperature checks and handwashing stations are required for all public or private buildings such as banks, schools, hospitals and markets.
In Africa, South Africa reported 2,383 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 72 additional deaths, according to an update posted by the health minister. The number of vaccines administered stood at more than 651,000.
In Europe, the British government has been accused of introducing local lockdowns by stealth after it introduced tighter restrictions for eight local areas in England that it says are hot spots for the coronavirus variant first identified in India. On Tuesday, lawmakers and local public health officials said they hadn’t been made aware of changes that the Conservative government published online last Friday.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 12:15 p.m. ET
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